Grapefruit League games start on March 1, and if you’d like to take a tour of spring training parks, the Orioles play all of their Florida road contests within 90 minutes of their Sarasota home.
Here are five parks you might want to visit.
March 6-Orioles at Boston-JetBlue Park-Fort Myers
Fort Myers is home to both the Red Sox and Twins, located about 10 minutes apart. There’s a game each day, but because of traffic concerns, both teams aren’t home concurrently.
The Orioles aren’t likely to bring many of their big names to this game, and it’s one of three visits to Boston’s spring home.
Another, on March 17, is a split-squad. You should avoid those games because the Orioles will bring even fewer names to that one.
JetBlue has some modern features and a replica of Fenway’s Green Monster.
The players don’t like it because the home and visiting clubhouses are both down the left field line, and far too close to each other.
March 9-Orioles at Phillies-Bright House Networks Park-Clearwater
The Orioles’ Ed Smith Stadium is my favorite Florida location, but this one is another great one. The Orioles make only one
About 70 minutes from Sarasota, this park has lots of parking and sells lots of cheesesteaks. The seats are comfortable and the view is terrific.
It has a modern atmosphere, too.
The best part of any trip to Clearwater is the postgame visit to Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill for a grouper sandwich and she crab soup. It’s about 15 minutes away from the ballpark on Clearwater Beach.
March 18-Orioles at Yankee-Steinbrenner Field-Tampa
The Orioles play the Yankees twice in Tampa. While it’s not a breathtaking ballpark, and bears little resemblance to Yankee Stadium, it’s a pleasant place to watch a game.
Steinbrenner Field is just minutes away from Tampa International and just down the road from Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tampa has lots of great restaurants within a few minutes of the ballpark.
March 22-Orioles at Twins-Hammond Stadium-Fort Myers
Just down the road from JetBlue Park, this is the underrated gem of the Grapefruit League.
Buck Showalter doesn’t like to bring his starters on the road, but this is one place he likes.
The field is in immaculate shape, and it’s late enough in the spring that he may actually bring some of the boldface names along.
After the game, head to one of my favorite spots, the Cape Cod Fish Company, which has superb clams as well as fish and chips.
March 27-Orioles at Pirates-McKechnie Field-Bradenton
Like the March 18 game, this is a night game. If you’re visiting Sarasota, you’re only 20 minutes away.
McKechnie Field is old and charming, but parking can be tough.
This year, the Orioles don’t visit another of Florida’s unique parks, Joker Marchant Stadium, home of the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. It’s about 90 minutes from Sarasota.
NOTE: The Orioles signed 40-year-old left-handed pitcher Hideki Okajima to a minor league contract. Okajima pitched for Boston from 2007-2011 with a 17-8 record and 3.11 ERA. He last pitched in the major leagues in 2013 when he appeared in five games.
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